This Wizard got Christmas on the day he needed it

He may not quite be the Beard To Be Feared as much as he once was but the ever popular Simon Whitlock certainly lived up to the Wizard billing as he somehow extricated himself from what for very long periods looked a decidedly gluey situation against Christian Perez of the Philippines this afternoon at the Alexandra Palace.

The vastly experienced Australian, who has been bridesmaid in big tournaments more often the Selma Bouvier has needed them, pulled out a 180 and a 100-plus finish just when they were needed most in the final set after his spirited opponent had belatedly warmed to his task and, in all honesty, looked the most likely winner heading into the final set.

Simon Whitlock needed all his experience to get past Christian Perez

So what exactly to think of Whitlock in the big picture? As plenty of evidence suggests, he certainly has rebounded his form in the last year or so, but whether he has enough in the tank to get past a very capable opponent in Ryan Searle could be another matter. One thing you can be sure, though, it that it won’t be boring between the two of them.

Prior to that, Martin Lukeman – an absolute ringer for chef Tom Kerridge – readily eliminated the Japanese qualifier Yamamoto. Thereafter, it could have been titled as something of a changing of the guard as Adam Gawlas of the Czech Republic defeated the former BDO World Champion Richie Burnett of Wales.

Such a summation would be more than a little unfair to Burnett who has had something of a career renaissance in recent years. And even though defeat was ultimately his lot here, it’d be no surprise to see him popping up in more of the big tournaments down the line.

Speaking of surprises, mind you, was it really that big of a one that Alan Soutar beat Daryll Gurney? Yes Gurney is a two time Major winner and a far better player than his current ranking would suggest but surely Soutar must be acknowledged as the breakthrough player of the year. That story may not be finished yet either.

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